French Books USA: Week in Review
Amazon has announced a ten million dollar pledge over the next five years for its books-in-translation imprint, Amazon Crossing. The program aims to increase the number of foreign books translated into English, and allows readers to recommend titles to the publisher. Or, dear reader, is this all just a move to consolidate power in the hegemony of hegemonies, Amazon and the English language? Emily Apter has a few things to say on the subject. Not that we're jealous of their budget (note: we are), but this is a good time to mention our own translation program. As the Frankfurt Book Fair rolls in, several French editors have spoken about the need for new works in translation, with publishing houses reaching out for international books to make an impact in the Francophone literary market.
It's been a good week for Riad Sattouf in terms of American exposure. In the wake of our announcement of his appearance at Festival Albertine, his freshly-translated Arab of the Future was featured in both the New York Times and New Yorker. Adam Shatz of the New Yorker describes Sattouf as a "wry observer of human folly," and his animated narrator-self a "Candide figure." Elsewhere in the Times, you'll notice that one particular picture of Houellebecq is used rather often for online reviews: cross-legged, smoking what seems to be his tenth cigarette of the hour, and not making eye contact with anything in particular.
It's also been a good week for the seventeenth century, with an extremely rare first edition of the complete works of Molière going up for auction at an anticipated price of €150,000. The complete volume, published in 1673, closes a century that began with the translation of the King James Bible, which this week made headlines after an American professor discovered the earliest known handwritten draft of the text in Cambridge. The news comes almost exactly a year after a Shakespeare first folio was found in France, leading to a slightly humorous image of the English being unable to keep track of their own literary history. Take that, Monsieur Hazareesingh.
In the States, the National Book Award nominations were announced, and in France, so too were the second selections for the Prix de Flore and Grand prix du roman de l'Académie française finalists. In other weekly prize news, the Prix de la langue française was awarded to historian and philosopher Mona Ozouf, and Charif Majdalani won the 2015 Prix Jean Gion.
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It seems a week can't go by without some sort of Proust-related news getting caught in our dragnet. Revisit Richard Howard's remarks on translating the first sentence of In Search of Lost Time, and don't forget about the Festival Albertine this November, featuring, among many others, David Remnick, Francine Prose, and Kamel Daoud.
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